Best of 2021: Mac Neil and Masse lead Canada to swimming success in Tokyo

Our Best of 2021 series recaps the incredible performances by Canadian athletes over the past year. Check out the full list here.

While Penny Oleksiak grabbed the headlines for becoming Canada’s most decorated Olympian of all time, she was far from the only Canadian swimmer to step on the podium this summer.

Starring in the individual events were Maggie Mac Neil and Kylie Masse, who each came home with three medals, helping Canada to six in swimming for the second straight Games. 

Here’s a quick look back at their summer of success in the pool:

Margaret MacNeil, right, of Canada, reacts after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter butterfly as Sarah Sjoestroem, of Sweden, looks on at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In her Olympic debut, 21-year-old Mac Neil gave Team Canada its first gold medal in Tokyo as she set a Canadian and Americas record in the 100m butterfly. She was just the third Canadian woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal in swimming.

READ: Mac Neil wins Canada’s first gold of Tokyo 2020 in 100m butterfly

READ: Mac Neil getting used to a new title: Olympic champion

That had come just a day after she was part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team (with Kayla Sanchez, Rebecca Smith, and Penny Oleksiak) that won silver for Canada’s first medal of Tokyo 2020.

READ: Team Canada wins first medal of Tokyo 2020 in swimming

Kylie Masse dives in for start of 100m backstroke
Canadian swimmer Kylie Masse competes in the Women’s 100m Backstroke during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Photo by Leah Hennel/COC

In her second Olympic appearance, Masse became the fourth woman to ever finish as runner-up in both the 100m and 200m backstroke events at the same Olympic Games.

In the 100m, she improved upon the bronze she had won at Rio 2016 before going on to break her own national record in the 200m to claim her second silver.

READ: Masse wins 100m backstroke silver at Tokyo 2020

READ: Masse wins second backstroke silver of Tokyo 2020

Canadian women's medley relay celebrates on pool deck
Canadian swimmers Kylie Masse, Sydney Pickrem, Margaret Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak celebrate after winning bronze in the Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday, August 01, 2021. Photo by Leah Hennel/COC

On the last day of the swimming competition, Mac Neil and Masse were part of a formidable lineup in the 4x100m medley relay. Masse led off in backstroke, followed by Sydney Pickrem in breaststroke, Mac Neil in butterfly, with Oleksiak anchoring on the freestyle leg. They broke their own national record to win the bronze medal.

READ: Team Canada wins women’s medley relay bronze at Tokyo 2020

READ: ‘Best girls in the world’ help Oleksiak reach seventh heaven

Mac Neil capped off her life-changing year with some additional hardware. In October, she was named Best Female Athlete of Tokyo 2020 at the Association of National Olympic Committees Awards in Crete, Greece.

READ: Three-time Olympic medallist Maggie Mac Neil named Best Female Athlete of Tokyo 2020

Not bad at all for someone who had spent a significant amount of time training in her backyard pool in London, Ontario because of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.